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What is SSC all about?

By CAGE Staff​(staff)     March 3, 2022

There’s an acronym used in the BDSM community that you will almost certainly come across at some point: SSC. But what does it mean, and why is it so important to a safe and healthy community? This article is going to not only unpack what SSC actually stands for, but also explore why this simple three-word acronym is used as the basis for safe play within the BDSM scene all over the world.

The three words we want to remember in this case are Safe, Sane and Consensual. The acronym is used as a reminder for anybody involved in the BDSM community of what ALL play and all relationships should be. Think of it as the foundation on which good BDSM partnerships and communities are built. So how do we decide what is safe – or, for that matter, what is sane? There’s no definitive list of what is safe and what is not, and not could there ever be: the world of kink, fetish and BDSM is such a hugely varied one that no document can cover all possible activities or dynamics. Therefore, when deciding whether something is safe or not, it’s important to know how to do a mental risk assessment.

You can do a mental risk assessment for any BDSM or sexual activity, but it can also be applied to relationships and communities as a whole. There’s no paperwork involved, and it’s not nearly as arduous a procedure as it might sound. All it involves is taking a look at what you plan to do (or how you plan to structure your relationship, organise your event, etc) and evaluating whether there are any risks.

If you do identify something that could go wrong and cause harm, it doesn’t mean you have to stop the activity altogether. It simply means that you should take steps to minimise of control the danger. If, for example, you’re doing rope bondage, this could mean having safety shears on hand, keeping your bunny close to the floor, or even having a spotter to keep an eye on your work. In a wider context, if your relationship involves consensual nonconsent or similar activities, you can make these much safer by agreeing on a safe word and discussing what you want to do with your partner in detail first.

With care and attention, we can make most activities and relationship dynamics fairly safe. Deciding whether something is sane is rather harder, however. Luckily, you don’t have to make that decision alone – you have a whole community surrounding you! There are plenty of ways to get in touch with people in real life and online who can help you get a clear perspective on your BDSM practice, and decide whether it’s verifiably sane. If you’re ever in doubt about anything – an activity, a relationship, or an event – get in touch with other people in the community and see what they think!

The “consensual” box is, on the surface at least, a fairly easy one to tick. So long as you make sure that everyone involved in any scene, relationship or event has given enthusiastic and informed consent to what is going on, then you’re in the clear. Do make sure, however, that it is INFORMED consent – meaning that the person must know what it is they’re agreeing to before making a decision. Consent applies to both dominant and submissive parties, and can be revoked at any time – and similarly it needs to be reconfirmed on a regular basis. Just because something was okay last week, doesn’t mean it will be again this week.

So, having looked at each point of SSC, you can probably now see why it’s such a commonly-used acronym. SSC underpins the world of BDSM, and creates a framework in which kinksters can not only have a good time, but ensure that they behave in a safe and ethical manner when doing so. Because a lot of BDSM activities and dynamics stray close to the line, SSC is an essential test that can help distinguish good, positive BDSM from much nastier abuse.

If something is not safe, not sane, or not consensual... then it is not BDSM, and has no place in the fetish world.

One final point: you may have come across a different acronym. RACK is often used interchangeably with SSC – and both mean more or less the same thing. RACK stands for Risk Aware Consensual Kink. As you can see, consent is still a key element, as is managing risk, and the awareness of everyone involved.

Whether you use RACK or the much-more-standard SSC to gauge your BDSM activities the key points are the same. Make sure what you and others are doing fits the criteria outlined above and you’ll not only have a fantastic time exploring your kinky fantasies, but you’ll also know that you are doing so conscientiously and in the right frame of mind.

Bugei{Owner of o}
Sane, may I suggest is very much a matter of opinion, even among medical professionals. What we do, I would again suggest, is not safe, in fact stating that you must take precautions defines risk. Which IMHO makes RACK far from non standard and not the same as SSC. RACK is an alternative approach to an alternative life style, acknowledging the risk we willingly undertake together in order to experience fulfilment of the many facets of BDSM.
May 23, 2017, 2:41 PM
RACK - Risk Aware Consensual Kink - The fact we know there may be a Risk, we are Aware of it and it is a Consensual Kink. SSC isn't appropriate any more. What we do, isn't sane - who the heck in their right mind would push needles into someone, or whip them till they bleed (should that be their thing) Is't not really safe - as things like breath play can be considered dangerous and cutting people can cause injury if not careful. The only thing that could be accurate is that it is consensual and we all agree on what we do in play.
May 23, 2017, 6:35 PM
SadisticDaddy76​(dom male)
I prefer RACK over SSC because what is same and safe to one person may not be to another. I am a Hardcore Sadist so the things I do may not be same to someone who isn't a Sadist or Masochist
Aug 1, 2017, 7:05 PM
Dellydoodah​(neither female)
Shouldn't we be adding 'F' too? for fun
Aug 12, 2017, 1:54 PM
Il Principe​(dom male)
Long story make short, both SSC and RACK are negotiation protocol, the "rule zero" when we talk about BDSM activities. I don't think that one exclude the other... and there are more too. For example, if I do a single session with a sub, SSC is best suited, and I, as a Master, take the full accountability on what happens. With my full time slave I have, no limits, no safeword, just common sense. So, no SSC at all... and it works very well.
Sep 25, 2017, 10:52 AM
Kelanen​(dom male){seek sub f}
RACK is very different to SSC... I'm certainly not SSC, I am RACK...
Feb 12, 2018, 3:17 AM
LoneWolf​(masochist gender queer)
Great article and comments. I believe the terms are used loosely among everyone. We all have our particular likes, dislikes and limits all of which should be respected or, get out of the playroom! Being a former wrestler I agree that any type of suspension play should be taken with great care and safety precautions. You can kill someone if they land on their head. Safety is very important whether it's beating the ever loving shit out of someone until they bleed then putting salt into the cuts. Something that I particular enjoy. I enjoy choking and overall rough play. However, I draw the line with knives. I don't mean to sound like a buzz kill but safety comes first. Also, I've noticed that a certain amount of people are into "risky sex" be it risking an STD or, an unwanted pregnancy. Be it if that's your thing. I'm not "kink shaming" anyone. The terms are used very loosely among everyone. However, consent should be the most important. Also, it's best to play in a group where's there's witnesses or, at least have it on camera if you are playing with a noob. Today anyone can say anything and land you in a whirlpool of legal shit. That's why I'm glad we have sites such as this to help one another with similar interests to exchange knowledge and experiences. Ok. I'm done blabbering.
Aug 4, 2022, 5:09 AM
Whatever the specific set of principle is adopted in the relationship, in general two things should apply. First, the relationship should be sound enough and solid enough to make these rules effectively a formality. Second, the slave should be safe while being completely in submission to Domini, and at the same time be in a state of being, internally, in which no limits had been present. Whatever principles are adopted in the case of a particular instance of a relationship.
Sep 11, 2022, 2:10 PM